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Kontos, Christos; El Bounkari, Omar; Krammer, Christine; Sinitski, Dzmitry; Hille, Kathleen; Zan, Chunfang; Yan, Guangyao; Wang, Sijia; Gao, Ying; Brandhofer, Markus; Megens, Remco T. A.; Hoffmann, Adrian; Pauli, Jessica; Asare, Yaw; Gerra, Simona; Bourilhon, Priscila; Leng, Lin; Eckstein, Hans-Henning; Kempf, Wolfgang E.; Pelisek, Jaroslav; Gokce, Ozgun; Maegdefessel, Lars; Bucala, Richard; Dichgans, Martin; Weber, Christian; Kapurniotu, Aphrodite; Bernhagen, Jürgen (2020): Designed CXCR4 mimic acts as a soluble chemokine receptor that blocks atherogenic inflammation by agonist-specific targeting. In: Nature Communications, Vol. 11, No. 1, 5981
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Abstract

Targeting a specific chemokine/receptor axis in atherosclerosis remains challenging. Soluble receptor-based strategies are not established for chemokine receptors due to their discontinuous architecture. Macrophage migration-inhibitory factor (MIF) is an atypical chemokine that promotes atherosclerosis through CXC-motif chemokine receptor-4 (CXCR4). However, CXCR4/CXCL12 interactions also mediate atheroprotection. Here, we show that constrained 31-residue-peptides ('msR4Ms') designed to mimic the CXCR4-binding site to MIF, selectively bind MIF with nanomolar affinity and block MIF/CXCR4 without affecting CXCL12/CXCR4. We identify msR4M-L1, which blocks MIF- but not CXCL12-elicited CXCR4 vascular cell activities. Its potency compares well with established MIF inhibitors, whereas msR4M-L1 does not interfere with cardioprotective MIF/CD74 signaling. In vivo-administered msR4M-L1 enriches in atherosclerotic plaques, blocks arterial leukocyte adhesion, and inhibits atherosclerosis and inflammation in hyperlipidemic Apoe(-/-) mice in vivo. Finally, msR4M-L1 binds to MIF in plaques from human carotid-endarterectomy specimens. Together, we establish an engineered GPCR-ectodomain-based mimicry principle that differentiates between disease-exacerbating and -protective pathways and chemokine-selectively interferes with atherosclerosis. The development of specific anti-cytokine/chemokine therapeutic strategies for atherosclerotic disease is challenging. Here, the authors have designed a peptide-based ectodomain mimic of the chemokine receptor CXCR4 that selectively targets MIF but not CXCL12 and blocks experimental atherosclerosis in vivo.